Good morning, everyone.
My name is Leona Irons. I'm the executive director for the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association.
I'm here to speak on behalf of the association, specifically to the budget implementation act, 2018, no. 2, division 19, part 4, the enactment of the addition of lands to reserves and reserve creation act.
As it is custom to our association, we would like to begin by honouring and acknowledging the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. In respect, we offer our medicines—the sweetgrass, tobacco and sage. We ask that the creator and the spirit of our ancestors grant us wisdom to speak for the benefit of our people.
I'd like to thank the Standing Committee on Finance for the invitation to speak today. We look upon this as an opportunity to promote awareness of raising professional standards in first nations land management as well as to draw attention to the need for the enactment of the addition of lands to reserves and reserve creation act.
By way of background on our organization, the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association was officially formed in 2000 as a non-profit, non-political organization. NALMA is a technical association, driven by first nation land management professionals.
Our association has eight regional lands associations, with 178 first nations and Inuit communities represented in the Atlantic region, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and British Columbia. Our members operate under various land programs and regimes.
One is the reserve land and environment management program, managing first nations lands under the Indian Act. There is also the First Nations Land Management Act, a sectoral, self-government management of lands. Then there is also self-government, with full control and management of first nation lands.
NALMA and our regional lands associations work towards providing opportunities in professional development, networking and technical support to meet the existing, emerging and future needs of first nations land managers to efficiently and effectively manage their lands. For more information about our organization, please visit our website at www.nalma.ca, as well as www.coemrp.ca, the Centre of Excellence for Matrimonial Real Property.
I'll turn now to addressing issues and challenges with regard to additions to reserve.
Generally, a land manager is directly involved with the “addition to reserve” process at the community level. It's for that reason we have a vested interest in working with willing and productive partners towards improving the ATR policy.
Since 2012, NALMA has been fortunate to have participated on various committees, such as the past joint working group with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the Assembly of First Nations. We're currently working on the national ATR advisory committee.
NALMA contributed to the foundation for the 2016 “addition to reserve” policy. Significant improvements were made to the policy that we believe support the community, social and economic objectives of first nations. First nations' having the ability to expand their land base enables them to take advantage of economic development opportunities, thus improving the economic, political and social well-being of their people.
Over the past18 years we've made significant progress in raising professional standards and promoting and building capacity in lands management. Last fiscal year we had the opportunity to train 800 first nations and other stakeholders and to engage with and provide technical support to well over 2,000.
We had developed a tool kit, and with the funding support of Indigenous Services Canada, we were able to update this tool kit to reflect the 2016 policy. The kit is an integrated set of printed materials, worksheets, flow charts and checklists, and its modules are designed for use by first nations and their professional associates. It should be used from the very start of the land acquisition process and continually throughout the ATR process until completion.
I'm very pleased to provide you with a copy of the ATR policy. As well, we have put together a flow chart that will give you a visual of the full ATR process. I'm leaving you also with electronic copies of the tool kit both in French and English.
This fiscal year we plan to train well over 75 first nations in the policy. We hope to complete that by the end of the fiscal year in both official languages. Reflecting the 2000 ATR policy, it has four stages in the process: the initiation stage, the assessment and review stage, the proposed completion stage and the approval stage. With the proposed amendments as outlined in division 19, part 4, it will minimize the time in each stage of the process, but more profoundly in the approval stage. It will also allow first nations to select lands with viable economic potential.
In conclusion, as NALMA is a technical professional association working towards improving efficiencies in the field of lands management, we hereby support the proposed amendments as outlined in division 19, part 4, which in plain language references the following. One, it authorizes all additions to reserve to be approved by ministerial order rather than by Governor in Council. Two, it enables first nations to designate or zone lands prior to transfer and facilitate the third party interests through leases and permits prior to the lands being added.
Lastly, I would like to commend those who have taken the time and energy to bring forth this proposed amendment. lt demonstrates that the Government of Canada is working to advance reconciliation and renew working relationships based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and productive partnership.
Thank you again for the invitation and we look forward to positive outcomes in the days to come.